Pilgrimage

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A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone's own beliefs. Many religions attach spiritual importance to particular places: the place of birth or death of founders or saints, or to the place of their "calling" or spiritual awakening, or of their connection (visual or verbal) with the divine, to locations where miracles were performed or witnessed, or locations where a deity is said to live or be "housed," or any site that is seen to have special spiritual powers. Such sites may be commemorated with shrines or temples that devotees are encouraged to visit for their own spiritual benefit: to be healed or have questions answered or to achieve some other spiritual benefit. A person who makes such a journey is called a pilgrim. As a common human experience, pilgrimage has been proposed as a Jungian archetype by Wallace Clift and Jean Dalby Clift.[1]

The Holy Land acts as a focal point for the pilgrimages of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. According to a Stockholm University study in 2011, these pilgrims visit the Holy Land to touch and see physical manifestations of their faith, confirm their beliefs in the holy context with collective excitation, and connect personally to the Holy Land.[2]

In the early 21st century the numbers of people of all faiths making pilgrimages has continued to rise, with 39 of the most popular sites alone receiving an estimated 200 million visitors every year.[3] There is a growing awareness within the major faith organisations that fulfilling the spiritual obligations of pilgrimage may paradoxically conflict with the spiritual obligation to care for the natural world. In response to these concerns a global Green Pilgrimage Network[4] was inaugurated in 2011,[5] with municipal and religious authorities from Bahá'í, Buddhist, Christian, Daoist, Islamic, Jewish, Shinto and Sikh sacred sites committing to the shared goal of minimising the environmental impact of pilgrims and, ultimately, achieving a 'positive footprint' for pilgrimage. In 2012 an India Chapter of the Green Pilgrimage Network was launched, with a further ten Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and Sikh pilgrimage sites from across India.[6]

Bahá'í Faith[edit]

Bahá'u'lláh decreed pilgrimage to two places in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas: the House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, Iraq, and the House of the Báb in Shiraz, Iran. Later, `Abdu'l-Bahá designated the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahji, Israel as a site of pilgrimage.[7] The designated sites for pilgrimage are currently not accessible to the majority of Bahá'ís, as they are in Iraq and Iran respectively, and thus when Bahá'ís currently refer to pilgrimage, it refers to a nine-day pilgrimage which consists of visiting the holy places at at the Bahá'í World Centre in northwest Israel in Haifa, Acre, and Bahjí.[7]

Buddhism[edit]

Ancient excavated Buddha-image at the Mahaparinirvana Temple, Kushinagar.
Tibetans on a pilgrimage to Lhasa, doing full-body prostrations, often for the entire length of the journey.

There are four places that Buddhists make pilgrimage to:

Other pilgrimage places in India and Nepal connected to the life of Gautama Buddha are: Savatthi, Pataliputta, Nalanda, Gaya, Vesali, Sankasia, Kapilavastu, Kosambi, Rajagaha, Varanasi, Sabari mala.

Other famous places for Buddhist pilgrimage include:

Christianity[edit]

Orthodox pilgrim in Kiev Pechersk Lavra, Ukraine.

Christian pilgrimage was first made to sites connected with the birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Aside from the early example of Origen, in the mid second century, surviving descriptions of Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land date from the 4th century, when pilgrimage was encouraged by church fathers like Saint Jerome and established by Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. Pilgrimages also began to be made to Rome and other sites associated with the Apostles, saints and Christian martyrs, as well as to places where there have been apparitions of the Virgin Mary. A popular pilgrimage site in the past and today is Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, Spain, in reference to the Apostle St. James, The Great. Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales recounts the tales told by pilgrims on their way to Canterbury and the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket.

Hinduism[edit]

Bathing ghat on the Ganges during Kumbh Mela, Haridwar
Pilgrimage to Kedarnath

According to Karel Werner's Popular Dictionary of Hinduism, "[m]ost Hindu places of pilgrimage are associated with legendary events from the lives of various gods.... Almost any place can become a focus for pilgrimage, but in most cases they are sacred cities, rivers, lakes, and mountains."[8] Hindus are encouraged to undertake pilgrimages during their lifetime, though this practice is not considered absolutely mandatory. Most Hindus visit sites within their region or locale.

Kumbh Mela: Kumbh Mela is the largest pilgrimage recorded in history.[9][10][11][citation needed] Kumbh Mela is also credited with the largest gathering of humans in the entire world. The location is rotated among Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain.

Char Dham (Famous Four Pilgrimage sites): The four holy sites Puri, Rameswaram, Dwarka, and Badrinath (or alternatively the Himalayan towns of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri) compose the Char Dham (four abodes) pilgrimage circuit.

Old Holy cities as per Puranic Texts: Varanasi formerly known as Kashi, Allahabad formerly known as Prayag, Haridwar-Rishikesh, Mathura-Vrindavan, Pandharpur, Paithan and Ayodhya.

Major Temple cities: Puri, which hosts a major Vaishnava Jagannath temple and Rath Yatra celebration; Katra, home to the Vaishno Devi temple; Three comparatively recent temples of fame and huge pilgrimage are Shirdi, home to Sai Baba of Shirdi, Tirumala - Tirupati, home to the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple; and Sabarimala,where Swami Ayyappan is worshipped.

Shakti Peethas: Another important set of pilgrimages are the Shakti Peethas, where the Mother Goddess is worshipped, the two principal ones being Kalighat and Kamakhya.

Islam[edit]

Muslim Pilgrims circumambulating the Kaaba during the Hajj
Supplicating Pilgrim at Masjid Al-Haram, Mecca, Saudi Arabia

The pilgrimage to Mecca (the Hajj) is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It should be attempted at least once in the lifetime of all able-bodied Muslims who can afford to do so. It is the most important of all Muslim pilgrimages, and is the largest pilgrimage for Muslims.[12]

Another important place for Muslims is the city of Medina, the second holiest place in Islam, in Saudi Arabia, where Muhammad rests in Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (the Mosque of the Prophet).

The ihram (white robes of pilgrimage) is meant to show equality of all pilgrims in the eyes of Allah: that there is no difference between a prince and a pauper. Ihram is also symbolic for holy virtue and pardon from all past sins.

While wearing the ihram in Mecca, a pilgrim may not shave, clip their nails, wear perfume, swear or quarrel, hunt, kill any creature, uproot or damage plants, cover the head for men or the face and hands for women, marry, wear shoes over the ankles, perform any dishonest acts or carry weapons. If they do any of these their pilgrimage is invalid.

Judaism[edit]

Jews at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem during the Ottoman period, 1860.

The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish religion until its destruction in 70 CE, and all adult men who were able were required to visit and offer sacrifices (korbanot), particularly during Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.

Following the destruction of the Second Temple and the onset of the diaspora, the centrality of pilgrimage to Jerusalem in Judaism was discontinued. In its place came prayers and rituals hoping for a return to Zion and the accompanying restoration of regular pilgrimages.

The western retaining wall of the Temple Mount, known as the Western Wall or Wailing Wall, remains in the Old City of Jerusalem and this has been the most sacred site for religious Jews. Pilgrimage to this area was off-limits from 1948 to 1967, when East Jerusalem was controlled by Jordan.

There are numerous lesser Jewish pilgrimage sites, mainly tombs of tzadikim, throughout the Land of Israel and all over the world, including: Hebron; Bethlehem; Mt. Meron; Netivot; Uman, Ukraine; Silistra, Bulgaria; Damanhur, Egypt; and many others.[13]

Meher Baba[edit]

The main pilgrimage sites associated with the spiritual teacher Meher Baba are Meherabad, India, where Baba completed the "major portion"[14] of his work and where his tomb is now located, and Meherazad, India, where Baba resided later in his life.

Sikhism[edit]

The Sikh religion does not place great importance on pilgrimage. Guru Nanak Dev was asked "Should I go and bathe at pilgrimage places?" and replied: "God's name is the real pilgrimage place which consists of contemplation of the word of God, and the cultivation of inner knowledge."

Eventually, however, Amritsar and Harmandir Saheb (the Golden Temple) became the centre of the Sikh faith, and if a Sikh goes on pilgrimage it is usually to this place considered the spiritual and cultural centre of Sikhs rather than a pilgrimage.[15]

Zoroastrianism[edit]

The Zoroastrians take pilgrimage trips in India to the eight Atash Behrams in India and one in Yazd.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Cleft (1996). The Archetype of Pilgrimage: Outer Action With Inner Meaning. The Paulist Press. ISBN 0-8091-3599-X.  Unknown parameter |lasts= ignored (help); Unknown parameter |firsts= ignored (help).
  2. ^ Metti, Michael Sebastian (2011-06-01). "Jerusalem - the most powerful brand in history". Stockholm University School of Business. Retrieved 01July 2011. 
  3. ^ Numbers compiled from local sources where possible. See [1] for breakdown and notes.
  4. ^ Explanation of the aims and origins of the Green Pilgrimage Network
  5. ^ Worldwide Fund For Nature (WWF) account of its role in developing Green Pilgrimage Network
  6. ^ Punjabi Newsline (14-10-2012) account of launch of India Chapter
  7. ^ a b Smith, Peter (2000). "Pilgrimage". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: eworld Publications. p. 269. ISBN 1-85168-184-1. 
  8. ^ Werner, Karel (1994). A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism. Curzon Press. ISBN 0-7007-1049-3.
  9. ^ Digitaljournal.com
  10. ^ Washingtonpost.com
  11. ^ News.bbc.co.uk
  12. ^ Colin Wilson (1996). Atlas of Holy Places & Sacred Sites. DK Adult. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-7894-1051-1. 
  13. ^ See David M. Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson, Pilgrimage and the Jews (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006) for history and data on several pilgrimages to both Ashkenazi and Sephardic holy sites.
  14. ^ Deshmukh, Indumati (1961). "Address in Marathi." The Awakener 7 (3): 29.
  15. ^ Re-xs.ucsm.ac.uk

Further reading[edit]